Season 2, Episode 5 Review “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

By Charlie Harwood on Apr 29, 2012 to Game of Thrones

The half-way episode is officially in the books. Overall, I thought it was solid throughout with only a few complaints. So, let’s dive right into what happened in “The Ghost of Harrenhal”.

Note: This article contains episode spoilers. If you have not seen episode 5, “The Ghost of Harrenhal”, please do not read!

The episode starts off where we left off last week, the shadow baby. In this scene, Renly and Cat are discussing a truce while Brienne stands guard. Cat relays to Renly that her son, Robb, has no desire to sit the Iron Throne and wishes peace between them. Accepting the truce, Renly tell her that once the battle is over Robb can maintain rights over all the northern lands as long as he declares his fealty. The agreement is made and a shadowy figure comes into the tent and murders Renly. Grief stricken and devastated at the death of her king, Brienne lets out a loud shriek and kills the incoming guards who attempt to seize her, cutting them down in an impressive display. Brienne won’t leave his side and Cat has to explain to her that she will be blamed for the death. They both escape the camp together.

While on the run, Brienne tells Catelyn that she believes Stannis is responsible for Renly’s death. Brienne says that she would like to serve Catelyn as she believes her to be a strong, honorable woman. Brienne will serve her as long as Cat does not hold her back if she should ever run into Stannis. Cat agrees and Brienne kneels in front of her to swear her vow. In an impressive act of admiration, Cat returns the favor and declares her own vow to always value Brienne’s loyalty.

In King’s Landing, Tyrion is informing Cersei of Renly’s death and they are both quite pleased. One less person vying for the throne makes their lives much easier. Unfortuntely, they learn that a large portion of Renly’s army, excluding the Tyrells’, have joined Stannis. Cersei does not seem particularly concerned as she has a trick up her sleeve that she will use to defeat him. When questioned about this secret weapon , Cersei mocks Tyrion and declines to give further information. This peculiar behavior makes Tyrion curious and he decides to look into the matter himself. He enlists the help of his newest spy, Lancel Lannister, to give him information about what Cersei is planning. Lancel tells him that the queen has been ordering the Alchemist Guild to mass-produce wildfire; a green, unstable liquid that burns at extreme temperatures. The Imp is astonished when he finally sees just how much wildfire has been produced, enough to lay waste to all of King’s Landing. As a result, Tyrion tells the pyromancer that he will no longer be making wildfire for Cersei, but for him.

Over at Harrenhal, Arya has begun her new role as Lord Tywin’s cupbearer. He holds council with his bannermen while Arya overhears them talking about her brother’s recent accomplishments. Tywin tells his men that they have underestimated Robb and have been expecting him to fail, which he never does. He begins to question Arya about where she comes from and she claims to be from Maidenpool. However, Tywin is a rather clever fellow and asks her about the name and sigil of a prominent house. Arya has no reply and is then accused of being a northerner. Trying to keep her cool, she admits she is from the north but doesn’t reveal her true identity by claming to be from a much lesser house. Tywin is satisfied when she is able to name the sigil of that house and wants to know what the northerners are saying about Robb Stark. She tells him they say Robb rides a direwolf into battle and that he can’t be killed. Tywin wants to know if she believes this to be true and she gives him a cold stare and says, “No. Anyone can be killed.” Was that a threat?

While fetching water, Arya runs into Jaqen H’ghar who is now wearing a Lannister uniform. He surprises her and she tells him that she should have let him die because he is now one of the Lannisters. Jaqen tells Arya that for saving the three men’s lives in the cage, the Red God is owed three lives. Therefore, all Arya has to do is say three names and those people will be killed. The first name she says is the Tickler.

North of the Wall, Jon and his companions have reached the Fist of the First Men. Sam seems extremely pleased to be there and gloats about its history. A new character, Qhorin Halfhand, is introduced as a Ranger who has been tracking Mance Rayder’s army. He proclaims that they need to be more like wildings. This involves taking a few men to sneak into Mance’s camp to kill him. Jon volunteers to go, but is met with dismay from Lord Commander Mormont because he is only a steward. After stating that he has killed a whitewalker, and Sam volunteering to take over his steward duties, Jon is allowed to go on the mission.

Across the Narrow Sea in Qarth, Dany is being treated by Xaro Xoan Daxos. He takes her to a vault room where he proposes to marry her. In return for accepting this proposal, he will supply her with all the gold she needs to take back the Seven Kingdoms. Dany talks with her advisor, Ser Jorah, and he does not like the idea. Jorah tells Dany that she needs support from Westeros in order to take it, not a Qartheen. He advises her to make her own way and promises to supply her with a ship in order to sail back to Westeros.

Over in Winterfell, Bran is holding council and listening to problems from local peasants. His master-at-arms, Ser Rodrick, storms in and declares that there has been an attack on Torrhen Square. With most of the northern forces fighting with Robb, Bran sends extra forces from his own guard in order to help stop the siege, but leaves Winterfell vastly under-protected. Outside, he talks with Osha about another dream he had with the three-eyed raven. She is reluctant to tell him what it means, but she obviously knows. Bran then begins to describe one of his most recent dreams: a great wave crashing into Winterfell, killing everyone.

In a meeting with Stannis, Davos warns him of the impact that Melisandre may have on the planned siege of King’s Landing and tries to explain what he saw in the cave. Davos feels that men will believe that the battle was won by The Red Woman, as rumors have been circulating that Melisandre whispers orders into Stannis’s ear. As a result, Stannis decides not to include Melisandre in the attack.

Finally, on the Iron Islands, Theon is struggling to command respect from his new crew. He is to go on a raid of the Stony Shore, a small fishing village, which is no great raid for a prominent Iron Islander. His sister, Yara, shows up and his greeted with a warm welcome from Theon’s crew. She has been given thirty ships to carry out a great raid on the northern lands. Theon can only be disgruntled knowing that his sister is being favored by his father and now the rest of the Iron Islanders. We also see Theon’s first mate, Dagmer Cleftjaw, for the first time. Not sure how this character will impact Theon’s story but it will be interesting to find out.


Brienne and Cat – The scene in which Brienne and Cat exchange vows was incredibly moving. I have been waiting for a strong appearance from both characters this season and this was it! It was an extremely powerful scene that gave me a true feeling of the devotion between the two characters. Brienne is remarkable and Gwendoline Christie has done an amazing job with her portrayal.

Dracarys! – The CGI Drogon was awesome! He looked so real and it was cool watching him cook his meat before eating it.

Tywin and Arya – Two excellent actors here made this my favorite scene of the night. That look Maisie gives when she says “anyone can be killed” is frightening. I think she wants to kill him! Also, Arya lecturing Gendry on a proper fighting stance was epic and it shows that Syrio’s influence is still with her.

Pyatt Pree – He looks amazingly sadistic and twisted. Perfect!

Jaqen H’Ghar – Jaqen is raelly intriguing and I love the way he talks. He’s such a calm, cool character that I can’t help but be a fan. The look on Arya’s face after he kills her first victim was classic. She looked extremely pleased!

No sex/nudity – With all the complaints I’ve been seeing about the overtly sexual nature of the show this season, it was nice to see none of that in this episode!


Shadow Demon – I was rather disappointed with the Renly killing scene. After the dramatic birthing of the shadow demon, I thought that it would have wreaked a little more havoc. The actual killing seemed fake to me and not very dramatic. Matter of fact, none of the deaths in this episode lived up to what we have come to expect from the show. Although watching Brienne slice up those guards was truly badass, the Renly and Tickler deaths weren’t all that exciting.

Book Deviations (No Spoilers)

Arya – The biggest deviation in this episode is Arya serving as Lord Tywin’s cup-bearer. In the books, she starts out working with Hotpie in the kitchens and never interacts with him. Addtionally, the Tickler was not the first person she names.

Xaro Xoan Daxos – The show is introducing Xaro as a self-made man from the Summer Islands who came from nothing. However, in the novels he is a native Qartheen with no mention as to how he acquired is wealth. He does repeatedly offer to marry Dany though.

Dagmer – Another change was the character of Dagmer Cleftjaw. In the novels, he is a legendary Iron Islander and Pyke’s master-at-arms. The show is using this character as Theon’s first mate and it will be interesting to see what happens here.

Go inside the episode with HBO:

Favorite Quotes From Episode 5

“I dreamt that the sea came to Winterfell” – Bran Stark

“I remember an old sailor’s proverb. Piss on wildfire and your cock burns off.” – Tyrion Lannister

“You can’t avenge him if you’re dead.” – Catelyn Stark

“They say he rides on the back of a giant a direwolf into battle. They say he can turn into one himself if he wants. They say he can’t be killed.” – Arya Stark

“There are times, when I look at you, I still can’t believe you’re real.” – Ser Jorah Mormont

“You were a true king, a good king.” – Ser Loras Tyrell

“I don’t want to be A queen. I want to be THE queen.” – Margaery Tyrell

“Please tell Bronn to kill you if anything happens to me.” – Tyrion Lannister

“You took those bannermen from Renly, don’t lose them to her.” – Davos Seaworth

“The Iron Throne is mine and I will take it!” – Daenerys Targaryen

“Only death may pay for life.” – Jaqen H’Ghar

“One for rangers, two for wildings, and three for whitewalkers.” – Samwell Tarly

“Dracarys!” – Daenerys Targaryen

“I only held him that once, as he was dying.” – Brienne of Tarth

“Hard truths cut both ways.” – Stannis Baratheon

What did you think Thrones fans? Leave any likes, dislikes, quotes, or opinions in the comments below!

  • I have no problem with her opoinin per se. I love the books, but hey, she’s entitled to her own opoinin, even though she chose to express it in a vitriolic and somewhat unwholesome manner. And fuck it. It’ the internet.I do have a problem here, and that is the sheep mentality. Some of those comments on her blog make me wonder if people think on their own. This ‘I didn’t read the books, but thank you for the review, now I won’t’ is biased and asinine, especially considering the discourse of this review.

  • NJ

    Arya was not Lannister’s cup-bearer in the books, either. She was a cup-bearer but for another character. I also noticed, a few episodes ago, that Ned’s letter was read by the council regarding the truth of Cersei’s babies daddy. In the books that letter never made it to its destination nor was a Baratheon on the council to read it. The daughter/wives part was different, too and John never came across a baby in the woods.

    • Charlie Harwood

      I touched on the fact that Arya’s story has drastically changed in this article and my last review. She does become cup-bearer for another character, but i’m trying to not add book spoilers in my articles. The letter read by the small council could have been one that Stannis had sent out. He had ravens carry thousands of letters all over Westeros detailing the fact that Joffrey is a bastard. That is how all the people in King’s Landing know about it too.

      You’re right, Jon didn’t come across a baby in the woods. But he does know what happens the Craster’s boys in the books. This is a very minor deviation.

      • Yeah that’s sort of the way the series is going. They change things to save time or make time or tie up a loose end they don’t want to leave dangling by changing details that don’t really matter. Does it matter that it was Tywin at Harrenhal instead of.. I dont even remember his name? I actually like that change a lot! More Charles Dance on screen! Plus, I’ve read the books so I’m happy to be surprised on screen (like with Dany’s dragons going missing). There are a couple of very minor things that I don’t like that have changed but they’re not even really worth mentioning. Mostly they just omit things that I think are important or interesting to character development that non-readers won’t ever get. But luckily.. I’ve read the books so I get all of that richness anyway.

        • NJ

          I have no problem with subtle changes, either. Just as long as the screen play is not TB’ed, all is well. Arya being right under Tywin’s nose adds a touch of excitement to her predicament.

  • James120756

    Ok, the dragons are stolen? That wasn’t in the books…. and when was the trip to the Twins when Rob was promised to Frey”s daughter?
    If you hadn’t read the books you wouldn’t know whats going on…

    • Charlie Harwood

      No, the dragon’s weren’t stolen in the books! Neither was various other events from “The Old Gods and the New”. I’m going to have to do a write-up on this episode because it was just too crazy. By the way, Season One showed Robb being promised to one of Lord Walder’s daughters. Pretty big and significant scene. Can’t believe you don’t remember.

  • Zoot

    Where are Meera and Jojen Reed they should appear by now?

    • Charlie Harwood

      They weren’t cast for this season. There are rumors as to what the show may do about these characters but nothing for certain. Personally, I hope they make an appearance.

  • billy

    Where the hell is riverrun and all of cat’s family???

    • Charlie Harwood

      Don’t want to be spoilery but that will be next season. They get involved too!

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